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Tips for staying safe at major events

With the Rugby World Cup starting in the next few weeks, Simon Giddins of Blackstone Consultancy put together a rough guide to staying safe at major events.

Also with the football season kicked off and various music festivals hosting their annual events, thousands of people will be flocking across the country to support their favourite sports teams and to sing along with their favourite bands and artists.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that these events can be extremely enjoyable spectacles, they are often blighted by security threats such as pick-pocketing and violence from disruptive fans. For instance, within the last few weeks, violence was recorded to have erupted before kick-off at Manchester United’s Champions League match against Club Brugge. According to eyewitness reports from fans, the conflict arose when a group of Belgian fans began to taunt Manchester United fans and their police escorts as they approached the Old Trafford Centre. As a spectator attending the match conveyed; “I had seen them walking up Trafford Road with the police…But when they were being held outside the Hotel they started to get a bit agitated…They were goading Reds as they walked past and some of them started attacking the police for some reason…It was all over pretty quickly but it wasn’t great, especially with so many kids and families around.”

Similar violent outbreaks have been reported at music festivals, including the infamous ‘all-in brawl’ that broke out at the 2014 Sydney Stereosonic music festival. One festivalgoer, Trevor Auld, captured the mass fight on video and revealed to local reporters how; “It was an all-in brawl. You couldn’t really tell who was fighting who…People were being thrown around. You saw people hit the ground or getting stomped on. Punches going everywhere…It was too big to contain. When you see it, you wouldn’t want to be in it…I was very disgusted at that sort of behaviour… It’s a music festival. You go there to enjoy the music…you get this minority of people that carry on like that and ruin it for everybody. I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the set…people around me were shaken up. You’re having a great time and then something like that happens.”

Pre-emptive

If you are planning on attending a large public event with friends and family then the most effective way of improving your group’s personal security is to prepare for any unfortunate eventualities. Although some of the pre-emptive personal security measures listed below may seem excessive, by implementing these precautions in advance you can prevent your group from suffering significant financial losses and emotional distress.
Firstly, one of the best pre-emptive security measures that you can practice is researching the venue where the event will be held. In the weeks leading up to a popular football match or concert the organisations who will be hosting each event, venues and organisers will publish important information regarding;

• The opening and closing times of the venue,
• The venue’s layout; including its primary and secondary entrance locations and exit points,
• The predicted amount of attendees,
• Detailed maps of the venue, its parking areas and restaurant facilities,
• Directions to the venue via bus, train or car,
• The venue’s emergency evacuation protocols,
• Contact details for security, first aid personnel and lost property departments who will be present on the day, and
• Information regarding restricted or prohibited items such as cans, glass bottles or caps on water bottles.

By using this information to plan how you will travel to and from the event, and to decide upon a public meeting point at the venue whereupon you can regroup if you become separated, your group will be far less likely to encounter any difficulties on the day of the event itself. In addition to assuring your group’s personal security you can also extend similar protection measures for your group’s personal belongings. For instance, if you take the time to check that all your mobile phones are fully charged, investing in portable emergency phone chargers then you can ensure that you will be able to remain in contact with one another throughout the event.

Remaining safe

Upon arriving at the event it is completely understandable that the last factor you will want to consider is security! However, by containing your excitement for a few short moments in order to implement the following personal security precautions, you can ensure that every single member of your group remains safe, secure and free to enjoy yourselves throughout the entire event without falling victim to any unfortunate incidents. For instance, when attending large crowded venues you should secure your valuables out of sight in zipped pockets and compact bags. By opting for front-facing bags and placing your cash, bankcards and mobile phone in separate pockets you will make it much harder for pickpockets to access your prized possessions. Before the venue is completely overrun by screaming fans, you should take a few moments to locate its emergency exits, restrooms and the location of the event’s stewards, security staff and medical personnel. By doing so, you will be able to react in a quick and calm manner should any unfortunate eventualities occur.

As a rule, you should always travel with a companion when venturing to concession stands and restrooms, or anywhere inside and outside of the venue. Not only will this reduce your likelihood of being targeted for theft but it will also mean that you will at least have some company should you become lost amidst hordes of football fans or festival-goers!

Furthermore, the term ‘treat others as you want to be treated’ may be a cliché but it is extremely relevant when attending large public events. If you remain respectful towards other patrons then you can all enjoy the match or concert in question without incident. However, if you notice certain individuals who are acting suspiciously or in a criminal manner at any stage during the event then you should report them to the venue’s stewards or security personnel immediately. By reporting crime as it occurs you can increase the likelihood of the perpetrators being caught and the individuals involved having their belongings returned.

Leaving

Once your event has ended most people are tired and eager to leave the venue in order to avoid encountering traffic on their way home. However, it is during this period that attendees are at a high risk of theft and potential threats due to their relaxed nature.

Such an incident occurred in May this year when a group of 30 Hull supporters attacked rival Newcastle United fans outside a pub on Caledonian Road, following a match earlier that same day. As Newcastle United fan Ken Moffat described; “After the game, Newcastle fans headed back to King’s Cross but they were early for the 7pm train home…It was a beautiful sunny day, so many of us headed to a nearby pub for a quiet drink outside…Then, completely out of the blue, a mob of about 20 to 30 men started running down the street towards us…They were all dressed in black and had hoodies or masks covering their faces. They were shouting and just started throwing bottles and glass…Kids were screaming and people were ducking for cover – there was glass flying around everywhere, it was horrendous…The police eventually showed up and they were all dressed in riot gear with body armour cordoning off the area…It really was the most horrendous experience.

Although these severe violent outbreaks are rare, it is important that you exercise caution when leaving major events so that your group will be prepared to deal with such kinds of unforeseen eventualities.

For example, even with the best intentions it is easy for friends and family to become separated when attempting to leave a crowded venue. Therefore, if you arrange to regroup a public meeting point at the front of the venue, as well as advising your group to wear colourful and distinctive clothing, then you will be able to rapidly identify one another amidst large crowds. These types of logistical problems can often arise at large venues, so it is strongly advised that you arrange for a person who is not attending the event to be on hand to offer support. From providing your group with back-up transportation to offering travel advice should your satellite navigation become faulty. With regards to transportation, it is strongly advised that you plan your group’s route to and from the venue a few days before the event and that you factor in some alternative travel choices. After all, public transportation is notorious for its unreliability so it can often prove useful to pre-book a licensed taxi or research the whereabouts of official taxi ranks within the area. By doing so, you will still be equipped with a viable route home if your train or bus is overcrowded or cancelled.

Or, if you intend to drive then you should choose a reputable and safe facility in which to park your vehicle. Although it can often be appealing to pick the cheapest local car park, it is strongly advised that you utilise a multi-storey car park that is well-lit and patrolled in the evenings by security personnel who operate under CCTV surveillance. Not only will these larger parking facilities be more secure and densely populated after the event, but they will also be more likely to facilitate pre-booking parking procedures that can save you time and money on the day of the event.

Finally, the most important post-game security precaution that your group can adopt is to stick together. To paraphrase the iconic Liverpudlian anthem, you’ll never walk alone from a major sporting or music event! This is due to the fact that if you are isolated you become a target for pickpockets and criminals who prey upon unsuspecting patrons on their way home. By always travelling as a group to and from large public events and by selecting well-lit, busy routes, such as main roads and footpaths that avoid shortcuts, alleyways or poorly lit underpasses, you can avoid trouble and conclude your day in the same merry manner in which it began!

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